Live Review: Good Things Festival, Melbourne 02/12/22

NOFX
(Image credit: Britt Andrews)

WHERE: Flemington Racecourse, Naarm/Melbourne VIC
WHEN: Friday December 2nd, 2022
REVIEW: Ellie Robinson
PHOTO: Britt Andrews

Of all the smaller rock and metal festivals to crop up in this post-Soundwave landscape, none have come as close to matching that uniquely youthful, colour-drenched and adrenalised atmosphere as Good Things (which makes sense; organised by much of its alumni, it’s more or less a spiritual successor to Soundwave). Having been sidelined for the past three years – y’know, for obvious reasons – the festival made its grand return to Flemington Racecourse on Friday December 2nd, sporting a lineup that more than made up for its forced hiatus (even if a handful of the acts billed had to ditch it at the last second due to visa problems).

Walking through the gates – our free (and duly appreciated) Red Bull gripped tightly – elation bounded through the festival site. Early-rising daredevils yelped with excited terror from the carnival lines, while others made sure the merch lines were consistently brutal from the moment they started. The site itself, too, was lined with a rainbow of food trucks doling out every cuisine imaginable – easily the best spread we’d ever seen at a music festival, even taking into account those that explicitly brand themselves as foodie-centric.

Opening up the mainstage were Teenage Joans. We’ve been following the Kaurna-native pop-punkers since their first upload to Triple J Unearthed, so to see them tear it up on such a massive stage – with an aptly massive crowd to boot – felt unexpectedly emotional. They absolutely crushed their 30-minute showcase, the highlights being two as-yet-unreleased cuts from their impending debut album, Hospital Bed, that poked at a more abrasive, genre-bending pop-punk sound à la Yungblud and classic Green Day. Also worthy of note was the duo’s cover of Charli XCX’s ‘Vroom Vroom’, which they spun into an effortless ‘90s punk rager (Cahli, Tahlia, if either of you are reading this, we need a recorded version of it yesterday).

Equally emotive was the hotly awaited return of Kisschasy, newly reunited to perform their seminal debut album, 2005’s United Paper People, in its entirety. Part of that emotion came courtesy of the record itself, with stirring ballads like ‘Black Dress’ and ‘Hearing Voices Tonight’ having shed none of their poignancy after 17 years. But more came from the band, who looked a little greyer than we’d last seen them (in 2015), but also much happier; the side of the stage was flanked with toddlers (theirs, presumably – hopefully), whose white-hot dance moves evoked louder cheers than their dads’ spirited jamming. And on the ground, us elder emos instantly snapped back to our halcyon days, belting along to all the doughy, saccharine hooks like they (or we) hadn’t aged a day.

Kisschasy weren’t the only band at Good Things playing the nostalgia card, but for the next few hours, our focus was locked squarely on the bands blazing trails today. One of those, tailing Kisschasy on the stage adjacent to them, is Thornhill. Heavy on cuts from this year’s brooding and industrial Heroine album, the energy of their set assailed its sunny framing, dark and gothic with Jacob Charlton’s swaggering tenor gliding over the barbed riffs that Ethan McCann dextrously flung at him. It was immediately made clear that Thornhill are not a “festival band” – that their ambitious sonic palette and aesthetic blueprint is only fully realised at their own shows – but even with the limitations imposed, they delivered a truly riveting performance.

Over on Stage 5 (see: the obligatory “small stage” tucked away at the furthermost corner of the festival site), technical difficulties wreaked havoc, leading to an otherwise meticulous schedule being thrown into disarray. While at most other festivals, bands would bear the brunt of this with shortened sets and rushed changeovers, Good Things proved to a lot more lax – Ocean Grove took to the stage around 20 minutes late, but played for the full half-hour they were billed with. 

Two thirds of their setlist was pulled from 2020’s Flip Phone Fantasy album, which had us feeling conflicted: the bangers were plentiful and the pit was indeed poppin’ (especially when the band whipped out vibe-heavy gems like ‘Guys From The Gord’ and ‘Junkie$’) but this year’s Up In The Air Forever album is equally laden with fezzie-primed anthems, and bar singles ‘Cali Sun’ and ‘Sex Dope Gold’, it was totally snubbed. Nevertheless, Ocean Grove most definitely are a festival band, and their Good Things set made us all the more certain of that. With more and more festivals shedding themselves of any genre-centric constraints, we can easily see them popping up on more lineups in the near future – something we have absolutely no qualms about.

The biggest downside of the schedule’s shift was that many punters missed the best performance of the day, from the genre-bending force that is Nova Twins. Fresh off the jet from London, the pair tore through their set of colourful punk-hop scorchers with vicious and infectiously buoyant aplomb, uniting the festival’s most diverse (and fashionable) crowd for a riotous celebration of individuality. At no point during the performance could we anticipate Nova Twins’ next move: while singer and guitarist Amy Love shredded on her Mustang like her life depended on it, bassist Georgia South was tap-dancing on her pedalboard – and utilising a Hot Hand MIDI ring (a f***ing game-changer if we’ve ever seen one) – to deliver analogue bass drops in the vein of In Silico-era Pendulum. 

Equally spellbinding were TISM, another act for those of us with nostalgic tastes and, clad in shimmering silver mylar jumpsuits (with enormous helium balloons protruding from their heads), by far the festival’s most visually striking. Officially reunited after 18 long, painful years, the band did well to remind us exactly why they were such a cultural powerhouse in their heyday, blazing through a stacked catalogue of hits like ‘Whatareya?’, ‘Greg! The Stop Sign!!’ and ‘(He’ll Never Be An) Ol’ Man River’. Amid all the raw comedy and visual gags, it was almost surprising just how great the band sounded on their own merits – Ron Hitler-Barassi’s pipes were in tip-top shape, and new guitarist Vladimir Lenin-McCartney downright stunned with his Tele in clutch.

NOFX recently announced that 2023 would be their last year as an active touring band, so their late-arvo set was one of the most highly anticipated. Not only was it likely the last-ever time the punk legends would perform in Melbourne, but it was also their second time ever playing Punk In Drublic in its entirety. That part, the band were clearly less stoked than us about, making several quips about their lack of enthusiasm as the hour unfolded. They got the job done, though, riffing through deep cuts like ‘Fleas’, ‘Happy Guy’ and ‘Dig’ for the first time in some eight years, and throwing in a couple of bonus treats like First Ditch Effort highlight ‘Six Years On Dope’ and a cover of Mark Curry’s ‘Perfect Government’.

Visibly disgruntled yet still putting on a ripper show, NOFX were the inverse of Deftones. The latter alt-metal pioneers thrashed with visceral passion – Stephen Carpenter in particular, laying waste to his fretboard with the meticulous tact other players would sell their souls for – and although Chino Moreno’s energy waned quickly, he powered through fatigue to deliver a vocal performance nothing short of transcendental. But with a combination of his nonexistent stage presence, the occasional rhythmic hiccup and a godawful mix, their set overall was a bit of a mess. The lattermost gripe was our biggest – even standing just a dozen or so metres from the stage, Deftones’ sound was muddy and washed out, lyrics barely comprehensible under the avalanche of compression.

Those aural quandaries only worsened for Bring Me The Horizon, whose headlining set was entirely derailed by a mix we can only describe aptly as dogshit. Punters whispering to their friends sounded more coherent, with the band’s two Matts – drummer Nicholls and bassist Kean – being the only members spotlit in our corner of the soundscape (just right of the mixing desk, where the sound is supposed to be at its sharpest). We hardly caught a minute of Oli Sykes’ actual vocals, with the frontman completely drowned out by his chanting disciples; this wound up being one of our highlights, though, as rapturous singalongs to hits like ‘Happy Song’ and ‘Shadow Moses’ brought to our cluster of the crowd a poignant sense of community.

The setlist as a whole drew exclusively of the newer half of Bring Me The Horizon’s catalogue, with the oldest tracks coming from 2013’s Sempiternal. It celebrated the band’s recent foray into industrial experimentalism, delivered as a conceptual play-of-sorts flanked by Matrix-inspired interludes and visual accoutrements. ‘Die4U’ and ‘Strangers’ were highlights, hinting at a bright future for Sykes and co. as they put the finishing touches on their second Post Human record. They treated us to five songs from the first chapter (Survival Horror), too, with the one-two punch of ‘Dear Diary’ and ‘Parasite Eve’ landing with particular force. As much as their sound team cooked it, we must admit, we still had a blast watching Bring Me The Horizon close out a stellar day of live music.

Before we could even make it back out the gates, hype for Good Things ’23 was abuzz. This edition offered one of the best festival experiences we’ve had in years, thanks in no short part to its nigh-on perfect lineup and exceptional organisation (bar the last two sets’ awful production and the technical mishaps on Stage 5). We have countless suggestions for the next bill – Paramore, Willow, Turnstile, Drug Church, The Linda Lindas and PUP would all be sick, please and thanks – but as it stands, and especially after Good Things ’22, we’re confident that whatever the team whip up will have us giddier than Kisschasy’s kids.

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Ellie Robinson
Editor-at-Large, Australian Guitar Magazine

Ellie Robinson is an Australian writer, editor and dog enthusiast with a keen ear for pop-rock and a keen tongue for actual Pop Rocks. Her bylines include music rag staples like NME, BLUNT, Mixdown and, of course, Australian Guitar (where she also serves as Editor-at-Large), but also less expected fare like TV Soap and Snowboarding Australia. Her go-to guitar is a Fender Player Tele, which, controversially, she only picked up after she'd joined the team at Australian Guitar. Before then, Ellie was a keyboardist – thankfully, the AG crew helped her see the light…